Going undefeated at home was preseason goal for the Gators
Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 3:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 3:15 p.m.
The Florida Gators haven’t given up on their goal of making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. That one, however, is out of their hands and considered a longshot at best.
But another important preseason goal is very much within their reach.
“We want to go undefeated in The Swamp this year,” junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins said Monday.
Winning them all in The Swamp this season is a big deal because Florida failed to do that the past two seasons.
In 2010, the unthinkable happened — the Gators lost three games at Florida Field, falling to LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina. They were all disheartening losses, but none quite like the one to the Gamecocks. In a game to decide the Eastern Division champion, the Gators were routed on their home field 36-14.
Then, last season, there were two more somewhat embarrassing moments in the stadium where UF has rarely lost dating back to 1990 — a 38-10 humbling at the hands of Alabama and a 21-7 loss to arch-rival Florida State that led Will Muschamp to label his football team “soft.”
Given the recent history, taking back The Swamp is high on the list of season goals for 2012. And the Gators can achieve it with victories over two teams that figure to be considerable underdogs in the next two weeks — Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State.
“We don’t want to lose in The Swamp,” senior tailback Mike Gillislee said. “Only Gators get out alive. The past two years, we lost in The Swamp and we want to get it back to how it used to be.”
Some of that old Swamp magic has returned this season.
It was present in the Gators’ 14-6 victory over then-No. 3 LSU on Oct. 6. It returned two weeks later in Florida’s 44-11 dismantling of South Carolina and the man who gave the stadium its nickname — Steve Spurrier.
Now, the Gators are on the brink of completing a perfect 7-0 home season.
“We have one of the great arenas in all of sports to play in,” Muschamp said. “No. 1, because of our fans. We’ve got a great following.
“It’s very important. We talk about if you want to have a special season, it starts at home. It starts with winning at home. Having been a visitor here before, I understand how difficult it is to come in here and play well and win a game.
“So, I’ve tried to stress it since Day One with our players the importance of playing well at home and defending The Swamp.”
The Gators expect to successfully defend their home turf Saturday afternoon, then redirect their attention to that other goal that is out of their hands. The players and coaches will watch the Georgia-Auburn game Saturday night and hope the Tigers can pull off the big upset.
If that happens, Florida would win the division and a trip to Atlanta.
“We’re definitely going to watch the game when we get done just like we did last week,” sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “But we’ve got to worry about what we can do. We have to focus on what we can control. What we can do is play well this week.”
Watkins was asked if the Gators were going to become Auburn fans after their game with Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I wouldn’t say we are fans of any other SEC school,” he said. “But it would be nice to see them get a win.”
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